Angie McMahon, Haley Heynderickx @ The Gov, Adelaide 16/10/2019

Support act Haley Heynderickx introduces herself as “unfortunately” American and “very happy to be the sacrificial lamb for this evening” and the audience initially are respectful during her first song, a cover of Jackson C. Frank’s Blues Run The Game. She says there’s something secret about the third song coming up, and that surprise is Angie McMahon joining her with a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s If I Needed You during which they joke that it is like they are singing to each other. She continues alone with original songs including one containing adlibbed lyrics about Australian animals resembling dinosaurs, afterwards commenting, “I should really finish writing songs”. Another song performed is the beautiful child-like finger-picked The Bug Collector which commences with the lyric: “there’s a centipede naked in the bedroom”. Far from being “tortured” (her description) by originals, this was a pleasant endearing set that made for a good opening for Angie McMahon and her band.

Angie walks out on stage singing along to Time After Time and following a brief acknowledgement to the audience she commences her set with Play the Game. A moment is taken to give an unofficial public service announcement, “I’m going to tell you about a fear I have. Two people fainted at our gig last night” and recommends we all look after each other, conveying her nervousness that so many people are crowded into a small space but says she’s happy at the same time. The invitation to chat while she tunes is taken literally then she snaps, “shut up” and in the lead into the next couple of songs, the band is supernumerary before joining her to bring an immediately classic sound to Soon.

The over enthusiasm of some of the audience singing along to every word with no attempt made to match her timing or tone is an unfortunate distraction for others within it but this appears to be welcomed by Angie’s smile. During Slow Mover this audience participation is overwhelming and drowns out Angie’s vocals such that she step backs from the mic to perform her trademark hip swivel and spontaneous random tick left leg kicks, giving over the vocals to the audience entirely. With a cover of Neil Young’s Helpless at last the “singers” in the audience are mellowing and seem be in sync with Angie and they disappear, giving themselves a break in the less inviting apocalyptic synth and bass performance of Push.

Halfway through the set and following on from Missing Me, during which Angie’s usual guttural moan transforms into a banshee wail, the band are introduced as Lachlan O’Kane on drums, Alex O’Gorman on bass, Olivia Hally on keys, bv’s and guitar. During the soulful blues of Standout, Alex’s bass is sounding almost like something out of Roger Water’s Pink Floyd. Perhaps due to unfamiliarity with the obscure Fleetwood Mac cover of Silver Springs, there is a lull in audience participation and they appear to have lost their momentum. At this time, I was reminded of what my friend’s elderly mother had said when she had heard Angie McMahon’s recordings: “Does that girl have stomach ache?” 

Angie comments, “If I’m stumbling, it’s not because I’m drunk. I’m just really enjoying myself” before a new song Patrick is performed solo with only Lachlan remaining onstage behind the drum kit, shrouded in darkness. This paean to siblings is the kind of song that defines Angie as a folksinger in a rock and roll vein. The appropriately titled Mood Song is a late night sound-tracking almost spoken word performance with Angie’s snarl threatening to erupt before giving way to a higher pitched muted howl. They play their recent Like A Version, a tribal bass version of Abba’s Knowing Me, Knowing You and the previous audience participation resumes while Angie lets loose on stage.

Taking a pause for breath after the physical workout of the previous song, Angie asks if there is anything anyone wants to talk about to which someone responds, “dogs” so she complies with a recent anecdote about a visit to a dog park. I think back upon this later and consider the unique aspects of Angie’s vocal style, there being something of an intense canine ferocity in her technique. With primal howls, a guttural hoarseness and occasional yelps, Angie is certainly embracing being a dog person and this appears to come across in her singing although probably unconsciously.

During the ode to gender equality of And I Am A Woman, Alex performs some welcome fuzz bass soloing almost taking a lead guitar role. After this song, with no pause or break for the tradition of an encore, we are informed there are only two more songs, “a rock song and then a lullaby”. The first is Pasta that has deliberately been left near to last and one that is custom made for live audience participation and interaction.

Angie reiterates, “This is the best Adelaide gig we’ve ever played” and to the sound of rain outside, invites Haley Heynderickx back on stage to join them in the whistle infused If You Call. Angie mentions the coincidence of it raining now during the live performance and the incidental sound of rain having been included on the recorded version. Following the song, they bow and leave the stage, the music to play them out being Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun inspiring a brief nightclub dance vibe in contrast to the dynamic intensity of the performance that came before.

Live Review by Jason Leigh

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